Saturday, January 15, 2011

“God has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunshine is a common grace, they say, but today it made me ponder how delicious will be the Sonshine, when it is Christ who gives light in the Eternal City.

Slowly, slowly, Lydia and I are winning the war against the leaf infiltration. They have run out of reinforcements and we are obliterating them, one pile at a time. Perhaps by spring, we will have reduced them all to ashes.

Usually Maggie and Freckles play very nicely. In fact, Maggie is more than delighted with her daily outing, accompanying me and Freckles on the trek down the driveway to get the mail. Today, returned home, she discovered a very nasty pelt in our yard, and when Freckles approached inquisitively, attacked her ferociously, pinning her to the ground and going for her throat. I intervened and ordered Maggie home. Reluctantly, she watched from the hedges, her eyes hard with greed, contemplating the best way to snag her desired object as I kicked the disgusting thing into the woods and sent Freckles up to the house. Later, she slunk back and retrieved it, stealing it away home as her trophy. Lydia heaved an indignant sigh when she discovered a bloody little hole punched through Freckles’ ear.

When we all came down the porch steps, decked in coats and boots, Freckles’ tail reached an RPM of at least 100. Ah, but, poor puppy. As soon as I said, “Good-bye, puppy” her tail stopped and her ears drooped.

“You were talking about me, I know you were,” Lydia accused, trying to hide a grin, as she climbed into the back seat of the Camry next to me. Actually, we were. We were talking about how she perfectly pulls the athletic girl style—with the dress up look of a polo of button-up shirt. Her hair was up in a pony-tail with a black sport head band wrapped around her ears, and the look just seemed made for her.

“We were saying how cute you are,” Papa teased, from the front seat.

“That’s Abigail,” Lydia shot back. “I get to be something else.”

“Actually,” I joined the conversation, “I’ve been demoted. You are the new cute. I’ll confess, it’s a sad day for me to let go and move on, but you have certainly surpassed me. So with great strength of character and fortitude, I resign the title. Wear it proudly.”

Lydia scowled. “Nice try.”

We followed Bruce and April and Jocelyn up highway seven, destination: Pedestal Rocks. On a road that curvy, Papa found his driver’s side tires straying into the center line at times—sending a buzz up Lydia’s and my spine that felt like it vibrated our bodies from toe to top, leaving our hair frizzed.

Arrived, we divided our carrying items and struck out down the trail. “We ought to tie a rope to Speed Boat and just get a free ride,” I heard Mom’s voice ring out behind me on the trail. I hadn’t meant to be walking so quickly, but the rugged terrain, the sunshine and fresh air and the sense of adventure felt marvelous. Arrived at the rocks, Speed Boat Senior (aka Papa) forged ahead with Mom in tow, while the rest of us clambered up and down the pedestals posing for pictures, starting snow-ball fights and marveling at the interesting rock formations—pedestals (surprise, surprise), random holes, fissures, cracks and caves. Not to mention a few used-to-be overhangs. Sometime, when Spring arrives and we are less encumbered by extra clothing, it would be fun to tackle a few of the harder rocks for some climbing.

As we hurried down the end of the trail, April squealed. “Rose hips!” Closer inspection revealed the bright, red berries, sprouting from the slender, thorny stems of rose plants. “Try getting a close up from the middle of the bush,” Jocelyn teased, as I worked for just the right angle with the camera. A twinge of daring stubbornness crept up my spine, and I lifted one thorny branch and slipped underneath. I did get better pictures from the middle, but as I turned to retrace my steps, my glow of pride at braving the bush died. Unknown to me, Bruce had been carefully holding the brambles away from me the whole time. How often do I think myself brave, completely unaware of the Father’s careful protection?

After supper, I settled in to finally start reading “Living the Cross Centered Life” by CJ Mahaney. Once upon a time I devoured books like they would melt in the manner of manna. I just don’t seem to find the time for much reading these days. I know that only One Book is necessary, and I often feel like it lies neglected in various corners of my living space far too often. But as I began to read, it seemed like very appropriate timing. I’ve hated that my life has seemed overwhelmed by secondary importances—theological issues, practical issues, relational issues, life issues, grief issues, heart issues, sin issues, disagreement issues, tissue issues. I’ve been praying and reading, but it’s been because I must, not because I can. I must solve these issues. But prayer is a privilege. In the past it was like walking into the King’s throne room and being invited to sit on His lap and lay my head against His chest and listen to His heart. And reading is a love-story. It’s like stealing away to a secret nook to pore over letters from my Betrothed, learning how He thinks and what pleases Him and what a home He is preparing for me. I needed someone to say to me, “Abigail…only one thing is important…it’s the good part that Mary chose…sitting at the Lord’s feet.” Meditating. Focusing. I needed someone to push aside the clambering “needs” and take me by the hand and lead me back to the cross. At first I felt stupid, ready to attack myself with condemnations that would delight my enemy. I should know better. I know what the One Priority is. Or Who, rather. But that isn’t the point, either. Condemnation, Mahaney reminds me, is also eyes not fixed on the cross. My answer is not to condemn myself for folly or blindness, but to give thanks for God’s indescribable gift.

Lydia padded softly into the room and scooted down beside me. “It’s still early,” she whispered. “Will you do something with me?”

Then comes the wrestling. Is it selfish that I want to be by myself with the Lord? That I don’t want to do something with her? Is it because I want to “feel better”? She’s lonely. I don’t know. Only One Thing is important, but other things are still important.

We discussed the virtues of various books and finally read Little House on the Prairie, snuggled up in bed with our heat blankets set on 9.

As I sat against the back wall of my bathroom—my study—just pondering the Lord’s character—His goodness and His mercy and His faithfulness—words from the Preacher in Ecclesiastes came back to mind. “There is a time for every event under heaven…” Berating myself for my lack of joy and passion lately, perhaps I have forgotten that sometimes there is a time for sorrow. A time to mourn. Even to mourn before the Lord. Because some of the things that break my heart must also be sorrowful to Him. He doesn’t delight in inflicting pain. He doesn’t smile on a wayward path. He hates divorce. Divisions are like wounds in His own body. He can’t rejoice in seeing His blood trampled as unholy. As I opened up to read the Preacher’s words, I nodded. “In much wisdom there is much grief and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.” It seems, as I plead for wisdom and understanding, I discover more that grieves me. Yet which is worse, to pursue folly in blithe ignorance, or to seek to know what is right only to find that the road of obedience is rugged? But again, the eternal perspective refreshed me. “He has made everything appropriate in its time.” Even weeping. Even mourning. Even silence. Even uprooting. The purpose? To put in our hearts a longing for eternity. “He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning to the end.” I don’t have answers because God does not intend me to know in this life what His purposes are. Why He tarries. Why He permits. Why He withholds. Why He is silent. In unfulfilled longing is hope. “I know that everything God does will remain forever, there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already, and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.” And here is the Divine Parody—that even in mourning, even with a heavy heart, the gospel is still my hope. Because mourning turns my heart to eternity when all will be made right, when I will finally be perfected, when I will know fully even as I am fully known. And what is my guarantee? Christ’s work on the cross, proved acceptable by His resurrection. This is my promise of purpose. Him. Who fills all in all.

It’s still and quiet in this place,

You meet me here with saving grace.

You met me with this grace before

When I first owned that You were Lord.

And since that day, Your grace has been

The light that I am walking in.

When darkness has obscured my view

Your grace has turned my eyes toward You.

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